Young white woman gets up on stage in stripper outfit. She sees her bold, provocative performance as a declaration of sexual desire and power. Others vilify her as a whore. Everyone is shocked; everyone can’t stop talking about it. Runaways fans: Does this sound familiar?
As truly awful as Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance was last night, I still feel sorry for her. As Cherie Currie found out 37 years ago, when she took the stage at the Starwood nightclub wearing a corset and fishnet stockings, it is extremely hard for a young woman to get up in front of an audience, flaunt her flesh, and maintain control over the way her body is interpreted. The Runaways singer wore her bustier for exactly one song, “Cherry Bomb.” Still, as happened again on the radio show we were on last Friday, that outfit is still the only — or at least the primary — way people see Currie. Once our Puritan culture’s boner is tripped, it stays ready to swing into action at the slightest provocation.
Flesh offered is flesh consumed. Aroused desire quickly turns into hatred, especially if the audience feels it is being teased. The vitriol of the attacks on the former Hannah Montana — the desire for her to be dead, or disappear — are shocking and nothing new. Currie also used to wind up as a corpse on stage, during “Dead End Justice”. A headline in one of the Japanese magazines that famously featured fetishistic shots of the under-dressed, under-age singer says it all: “Fuck Me, Kill Me: The Runaways.”
Cyrus is a young woman who has to grow up in the spotlight and doesn’t know how to be herself. For too many years she was desexualized; released, her libido rages uncontrolled. She’s the ugly, almost naked image of our entertainment culture’s pedophilic youth obsession and Madonna/whore complex, paying the price for all of our sins. MTV pimped her ride, just like Kim Fowley, Mercury Records, and the Japanese skin mags pimped Cherie. The shame belongs on them, not her. I mean really, Robin Thicke deserves far more hatred for singing his date-rape anthem than Cyrus gets for playing along.
Also, it must be said, Currie didn’t do that awful thing with her tongue. Her act was almost masculine, inspired by the drag of Rocky Horror not, I don’t know, MTV. Miley, I know you worship Joan Jett: Go back and look at her career. She never stooped to a pole dance. And she would have punched Thicke in the face.